Ruby Walsh had his appeal against the five-day ban imposed at Aintree last month turned down by the British Horseracing Authority yesterday. He had been stood down after the Aintree stewards judged that he used his whip nine times, once more than is allowed, in riding the Paul Nicholls trained Edgardo Sol to victory.
Central to Walsh's appeal was the issue of the use of the whip as a safety measure. Whilst he did not dispute the number of times he had struck the horse, Walsh claimed they included a tap down the shoulder as a corrective safety measure, and therefore this one stroke should not have counted. "We argued the slap down the shoulder on the approach to the last was corrective and for safety. They accepted it was corrective but not for safety, so they overturned the appeal. I believe that correction is safety. He was changing legs and on an off fore lead going to the last, and if I had met it on the wrong stride, I would have jumped in front of Sam Twiston-Daviesâ€™ horse."
The panel's verdict made a distinction between the two as they "did not consider it (the whip) was used at any time for safety reasons, but rather for correction to get the horse to change legs." Effectively they took the view that Walsh's action was simply a matter of race riding to get a better position and jump at the fence.
Rory MacNeice, who represented Walsh at the enquiry, said, "It is clear that safety and correction go together from the BHAâ€™s overall whip review documents and should not count toward the total. Discriminating between correction and safety is a fallacy â€“ it is entirely one thing."
For the BHA, Lynne Williams suggested that Walsh had invented the safety issue for the appeal, as he made no mention of it in the Aintree enquiry. Fortunately, the panel disregarded this proposal, for had they believed it they surely would not have returned Walshâ€™s deposit.
The jockey was clearly disappointed in the outcome, but recognised there was no further challenge available to him. "I didn't deliberately break the rules in Aintree, I counted eight but the instinctive slap down the shoulder got me into trouble.â€
What this appeal has shown is that the clarity that the new rules sought to bring still isnâ€™t there, and that what does and does not count is still a matter of interpretation and judgement. The further talks between the Professional Jockeysâ€™ Association and the BHA can't come soon enough.